Periodically, one of my co-workers will nonchalantly asked me what I want to do when my current, temporary Americorps position ends.
It’s a harmless, friendly question, but I freeze whenever someone asks me. As someone who spent the majority of adolescence asking my mother what each day held, it genuinely and deeply bothers me that I do not have a life plan.
When I was very young, I had a very specific idea of what my life would look like. I envisioned myself being a very well-read journalist, traveling to all parts of the world on a regular basis. Being unmarried or single was out of the question, and since I was obsessed with the show 7th Heaven, I just knew I would marry a pastor. He, of course, would be ridiculously handsome and enjoy reciting Shakespeare by the fishing pond we would obviously have in our back yard. By my mid twenties, I would be pregnant with at least one child. I expected to have a cottage in the woods, an orange cat named Atticus and be working on publishing my first book.
I exaggerate a bit, but I think you get my point.
But in reality, at nearly 24 years old, I am single, childless (both of which are OK things to be, we’ll get to that later), soon-to-be jobless, and live in my childhood home. Most nights, my mom still cooks me dinner. I go to church with almost all young married couples who have somehow or another bought houses and landed “real” jobs. And in realizing all of these things, it is very difficult for me not to feel less. It is very difficult for me not to compare myself to others.
So when my co-workers ask me what my career plans are after I finish my term, I freeze because they are unknowingly and unintentionally reminding me that I don’t know what will come after my term ends. Not only have I not fleshed out a full-proof plan, but in the deepest caverns of my big, beating heart, I am embarrassed to tell people that I don’t know what I want. I’m embarrassed to tell them that I don’t know what I want to do, what specific niche I want to devote my life to.
Not knowing exactly what you want can make you feel as if you don’t work hard enough or dream big enough or that somehow, you are less intelligent than others. It can make you feel like your desires are less than satisfactory. Each morning, when you and I consciously put on insecurity instead of boldness, we clothe ourselves in lies that grow into layers and more layers of covering that hide the people that we are.
And when we allow these lies to encompass and shadow the desires of our hearts, we are essentially telling God that the way He made us is not good enough. I am telling my beautiful, creative maker that I would rather be someone else than be me—a perfectly created, beautifully intelligent and funny woman.
When God created me, he gave me a heart for injustice. He gave me eyes to see the pain of others and ears that love to listen to the stories of others. He gave me gentle hands that love to serve meals and rock sleeping babies. He decided that I should have a passion for words—for the way that they can bridge division, inspire creativity and form beautiful breath-taking pieces of art. He made me strong and smart and sincere.
And that’s why it’s OK. It’s OK that I don’t know what I want. It’s okay that you don’t know what you want.
And I tell you this because I don’t think we’re told that enough.
I have recently been convinced that being in your twenties is, to borrow from Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times. We’re caught between realism and idealism, risk and security, adventure and roots. Some are married, some are not. In one ear people us to take advantage of being single and young. Go explore. Move to a new city. Travel the world. In the other ear, we’re told that we need to build our resumes and gain experience and save up money so that we can live comfortably. Often, we are either praised for our adventurous spirit or condemned for our lack of responsibility. It’s easy to not have a clue what to do.
In reality, there isn’t one right way. And that’s why it’s OK that I don’t know what I want. It’s OK because I know WHO I want.
And in chasing after He who made me—He who knit me together in my mother’s womb, I know I’ll get there. And so will you. One day we will look back and somehow understand that all of this—the feelings of confusion and chaos and frustration—will somehow piece together to make a story.
And because I like stories so very much, I’ve decided to be patient and wait. It doesn’t mean I lack drive. It doesn’t mean I am not seeking. It doesn’t make me less. Like any good reader, I know that the author is guiding me somewhere. And in a matter of time, the story can (and probably will) have a sudden turn of events.
Audrey is a Nashville native and a recent college graduate. She loves literature, ice-cream, barefoot summers and outdoor exploration. SheÕs currently serving a one year Americorps term with a local NGO and writing about her day to day adventures at lifeingoldenlight.com.